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Why do architects care about graphics so much?

July 9, 2020

Why are architects so obsessed with graphical style? They'd save themselves a lot of money if they didn't spend so much time making things pretty. The design would still work.

The reason is obvious: clients like nice graphics. 

But why? 

Good style demonstrates surplus in a firm. (Surplus what? Energy, capability, speed…) The firm is able to deliver the content, and also make the content look great. This is a buffer of safety for a client: if things get hard, this firm has surplus to burn.

Style demonstrates something else thing to a client. It indicates the firm is able to understand what is ‘in’.

What is style?

It’s the thing that most people think looks good. If a firm has style it means they understand what other people think looks good.
This is very important commodity. A prestige house is nice for the owner, but it is really much nicer if other people like it (and put it in a magazine).
A REIT is buying a building, but they don’t really need to like the building. What they do really need is for other people to like the building and rent it.
A firm with great style gives clients certainty that what they get will be liked by other people.

Graphic quality and style have always been a function of technology from Ultramarine paint in the Renaissance through to modern design software. An Autodesk executive has claimed he can tell which version of Autocad a building was designed in by walking through it.

Color is a type of data

Historically, to create good graphics a firm had to invest significantly in expensive, complex design & CAD packages. Because of their cumbersome, complex nature there were only a few to choose from.
Those days are over. Design and good graphics are increasingly a commodity. Take for instance Canva - a cloud based app bringing graphic design to the masses. Exceptional design is now assumed - everyone can have it for a few dollars a month.

So how does an architect differentiate? 80 hours of design is increasingly indistinguishable from a Canva preso whipped up in minutes.
The Giraffe proposition is that integration is the right value offer: the architect that can talk design, graphics, total return and public policy at once is going to be very valuable to their clients. (How these architects communicate this skill is hard, graphics at least talk for themselves)

The integrated designer is what we have in mind when we make decisions about what Giraffe should be. A graphics tool that is also a financial tool and GIS research tool. Ideally the whole package should be easier to use than a consumer facing app. :)

Data and graphics combined

We know our users are not precious about graphics just for the sake of it, but their businesses require it. We also think there is deeper value to be created if we focus on more than just graphics.